The process or adoption can be overwhelming. When choosing the best route for your family in this journey, should you choose an adoption agency or attorney? Below you will find many of the important aspects of deciding between an adoption agency or adoption attorney. Find out what kind of questions to ask yourself to help make the best decision for you and your growing family.
Adoption Agency or Attorney?
Attorneys and agencies in Texas can provide services for placement and during the adoption process. Typically, agencies will be a “full service” provider as they will complete the necessary home study for you to adopt and the post-placement visits. However, attorneys can have resources for the family to accomplish this also. Finding agencies and attorneys to discuss their services throughout this process is a great way to figure out what will work best for you.
Today, Caring Adoptions participates in domestic adoptions exclusively. Deciding which is best for you could depend on various parameters, such as age range and are you willing to travel to another country to complete an adoption.
National Agency or a Local Agency?
There are positives to both options.
National agencies may have offices in different states, work throughout the United States, and can find a match in any state. Typically, this means you will be traveling for your child’s placement and staying in that state until ICPC (Interstate Compact on Placement for Children) regulations and requirements have been met in both states.
Local agencies, like Caring Adoptions, with just one location in Houston, Texas, work just in Texas for placements; however, we have families from all over the US.
Unlike national agencies that sometimes work with hundreds of families, Caring Adoptions works with a small number of families to offer one-on-one support ensuring they can reach us with any questions or concerns throughout their process.
Foster Care or Straight Adoption?
Many children in the foster care system need a loving family. Adoptions through foster care can mean that you could adopt a sibling group or adopt a child of any age. Foster care adoptions are often funded through the state, and at times there are little to no fees for the adopting family.
Private adoptions (not through the foster care system) are usually infants as birthparents voluntarily relinquish their parental rights.
Foster care adoptions are typically a case of involuntary relinquishment of parental rights. Of course, this is not the case for all adoptions.
At this time, Caring Adoptions caters to birthparents that are voluntarily relinquishing their rights and do not have a contract with CPS for foster care placements.
These are important questions to ask yourself before deciding if an agency or attorney is right for you. Regardless of what you choose, you want to be happy in your decision as they will be the ones who guide you through your adoption process and be a means of support.
These are all great options, and we wish you the best on your adoption journey!
Meet Rekha, Deborah and Christina — three Indian adoptees from different families with one very strong and powerful connection: their shared beginning.
If you see us in person or in a picture, we are three little Indians: petite, of Indian nationality, and a group of three. Our names are Deborah, Rekha and Christina. We are three different people with one very strong and powerful connection: our shared beginning. Together on December 11, 1988, we traveled on Pan Am Flight 067 as infants 20+ hours from Pune, Maharashtra, India, to New York City, New York, USA. There were five of us total, accompanied and cared for by our American travel chaperones, Barbara, her husband, Lee, and their 20-year-old son, Kip. What we share is not only a past, but since finding each other and then meeting again 30+ years later, a new beginning of friendship and sisterhood.
While we are a group of three in this story told to you today, we are actually a group of five. We are hopeful that one day all five of us can reunite and be together once again.
Our ‘before we were adopted’ stories are quite different. Rekha, the oldest of our group, was born in Kedgaon and relinquished to an orphanage in Pune called Society of Friends of Sassoon Hospitals (SOFOSH), about two hours away from Pune. Deborah, the youngest of our group, was born in Pune and relinquished to an orphanage in Pune called Bharatiya Samaj Seva Kendra, or BSSK. I (Christina) was found abandoned behind a collector’s bungalow in Akola, about nine hours away from Pune, and placed in an orphanage called Preet Mandir (also in Pune).
Although placed in different orphanages in Pune, our adoptions were finalized around the same time. The American family that accompanied us from India to America traveled to three different orphanages to pick us up. We know this because we have the journal entries written by Barbara detailing every part of their trip — a collection of papers we will always treasure. Rekha, Deborah and I spent 20+ hours together on the flight (with a stop in Frankfurt, Germany) before we were delivered to our respective adoptive families eager to meet us at the airport. Upon arriving at the airport, we went our separate ways — Rekha to Ohio (she now lives in Colorado), Christina to Arkansas, and Deborah to Maine.
Rekha had always wondered growing up what happened to the other babies she journeyed to America with all those years ago. As the oldest of the group, she felt a need and responsibility to connect with us and for us to connect with each other once again. It was in 2008 that she had a breakthrough in her search and connected with Deborah via Facebook. They communicated off and on throughout the years, but especially on December 11 each year to mark the day they arrived together in America. At the time, they understood the connection they made was special, but had not yet fully grasped its importance.
On August 27, 2018, just three days before Rekha’s birthday, I (Christina) sent her a message on Facebook, awkwardly written and full of hope (quite similar to the one Rekha had sent to Deborah when they first connected). It was about six months before sending Rekha that message that I also began wondering about my past and the girls I traveled with to America. I began sleuthing on the internet using Barbara’s journal as a clue book to match their orphanage names with the last names of the adoptive families. Before I knew it, I had found Rekha!
I didn’t know if the message I sent to her would make it through, but it did! And then something magical happened; something monumental — another breakthrough. Rekha messaged me back almost immediately. She replied “Omg!!! I think we were! This is pretty amazing!!!! I’ve been looking for all the girls I came over with for so many years! I found Deborah about 10 years ago. I can connect us!”
I couldn’t believe it. I distinctly remember crying in the mailroom of my workplace in disbelief that she and Deborah were real. I can’t begin to describe how finding them made me feel, but I’ll try… Complete, whole, like finding a missing piece to the puzzle of my life.
At the same time I was searching for the girls, I was also searching for the family who chaperoned us on the flight. And thanks to some more internet sleuthing work, I connected with that family, and then we all three connected with the family. It was a special opportunity to collectively say thank you to Barabara and Kip for taking care of us as infants on the flight (Lee unfortunately had passed away four years earlier). As we began communicating more, Kip invited us to Oregon in June 2019 for a surprise birthday celebration for his mom. Unfortunately, Barbara passed away before we could meet her in person. However, we did get to video chat with her and she remembered us — even our orphanage names: Rekha, Bunhti and Shubhangi. We feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to let her know we are happy and living good lives, all thanks to her care for us 30+ years ago.
In April 2019, Deborah, Rekha and I met again for the first time in 30+ years in Colorado. We didn’t plan the meet-up too far out — it was definitely on a whim. Meeting them felt like coming home, like finding a long lost family member we always knew existed. During our trip, we watched the amazing film about an Indian adoptee like us called ‘Calcutta is My Mother’ and then spent the rest of the time getting to know one another and exploring beautiful Colorado.
Six weeks later we traveled again — this time to Portland, Oregon, to meet Kip and his family. This trip was just as special, if not more. Now there were four of us — three with a shared beginning and one who was a part of our beginning. We spent our time learning from one another, sharing stories, and exploring the beautiful state of Oregon. We also took a trip to Eugene to visit Holt International, the adoption agency we were adopted through. Our time at Holt was wonderful. We learned about their work and the many people behind it — some international adoptees just like us. We also had the opportunity to tell our story on video — be sure to watch it on the Holt YouTube channel.
While in Oregon, people often asked us why we were visiting. When we told them our story about our shared beginning, they either welled up with tears, got goosebumps, or were at a loss for words other than ‘amazing’. And that’s exactly what it is — amazing. We call each other sisters, and while we may have our relationship ups and downs as most sisters do, it’s our shared beginning that always brings us together and makes our relationship grow even stronger.
We are grateful to Holt for allowing us the opportunity to share our story with you on this blog, and we are grateful that we have found each other after all these years. We hope to continue to be a part of each other’s lives and to share in the lives of the family who brought us here.
Holt’s director of clinical services — Celeste Snodgrass — shares about adopting her son Max from Thailand at 9 years old. While an adoption expert by profession, Celeste affirms that no older-child adoption goes perfectly smoothly. But it’s the perfect option for many families, and for children who have been waiting so long.
“Are you hungry?” Celeste asked her son, Max.
“Are you hungry?” he asked her back, slowly.
“No. But are you hungry?” Celeste asked him again.
“No. But are you hungry?” he repeated back to her again. This exchange happened every mealtime, and in between, for the first three days that 9-year-old Max was home from Thailand.
Weird, Celeste thought. He must not be hungry. Maybe it was the new-to-him American food, the jetlag … it could be anything. But then she realized. He was hungry.
“What he was trying to say is ‘I am hungry.’ But what I was telling him is, ‘No, you can’t have food!’ This was such an awesome parenting moment for me,” Celeste says, laughing, a tone of sarcasm in her voice.
Celeste Snodgrass is Holt’s director of clinical services, and in October 2017, she and her husband, John, adopted 9-year-old Max from Thailand. An adoption expert by profession, Celeste is the first one to say that no parent is perfect, and that adopting an older child has a unique set of challenges. But she knows, without a doubt, it was the right move for her family.
Celeste and John had considered adoption for years. But they didn’t feel the timing was right until about three years ago, when both their work schedules lightened up a bit — and their two biological children had also grown older and more independent.
They decided to adopt an older child, which in the adoption world is any child over the age of about 2 or 3.
“We were older parents,” Celeste says. But this wasn’t the only reason they decided to adopt an older child. As someone who had devoted her life to helping children join loving families, Celeste had developed a heart for one particular group of kids — the kids who wait longest.
“I always knew [we’d adopt from the waiting child photolisting],” Celeste says. While the needs of kids on the photolisting vary, she knew that so many of them have special or medical needs that are truly no big deal.
“Maybe they have a medical condition that is really hard to treat in their country of origin, but here, it could be handled,” she says. “Or maybe they’re just an older kid.” With this perspective, both she and John felt confident moving forward.
“None of it scared us, I guess,” she says.
Celeste has worked at Holt for over 14 years. Today, as Holt’s clinical services director, she provides adoption-competent counseling, therapy and support to adoptive families and adoptees at every step of the adoption process and beyond. But when she and her husband started the adoption process three years ago, Celeste worked as an adoption social worker in her home state of South Dakota. She completed families’ homestudies, helped throughout the matching process and guided families through all of their adoption paperwork.
In her role, which included helping to match waiting children with the best family based on their specific needs, she became very familiar with all of the children on Holt’s waiting child photolisting. And one day, while scrolling through the photos and short descriptions of children waiting for families, she paused when she came to Max.
“His face. His little smile — oh, he was cute. When we read about him, we were like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s nothing,’” Celeste says, referring to the special needs highlighted in his profile. “He was an older child, but there was nothing in his history that was scary.”
‘We can handle it,’ she and John remember thinking.
Holt had been searching for the right family for Max for over a year. And finally, just three weeks shy of his tenth birthday, he came home to the Snodgrass family. This is when the adventure really began.
“I think one of the biggest things to remember with older child adoption is that kids have culture shock!” Celeste says. “If their family can keep this in the forefront of their mind — that this child is going through a huge transition and huge amount of grief without a trusted person — then they can hopefully continue to approach the child with compassion and understanding.”
For Max and the Snodgrasses, the efforts they took to help ease Max into their family and his life in the U.S. took a lot of different forms.
Before Max even came home, Celeste made for him a series of photo books so he could familiarize himself with his adoptive family and new life in the U.S. Each book contained information about their home, family, weather and more, and each one increased in detail as the time came closer for him to come home.
Once he came home to South Dakota, one of the first things they did was visit an Asian market. “He visibly relaxed,” Celeste says, “and purchased nearly all the food in the store!”
Max had never slept in a room — or even a bed — by himself before, so at first, he shared a room with his brother Bobby. Over time, Max transitioned to his own room, but still falls asleep with their family’s big black Goldendoodle snuggled up against him.
In addition, Max has started creating a lifebook — a digital scrapbook of sorts that helps him connect his life in Thailand with his new life in the U.S.
As an adoption professional, Celeste knew a lot about what to expect when adopting an older child. But that doesn’t mean that the process and transition has been perfect.
Between the language barrier, cultural differences, past trauma and more, older-child adoption presents unique challenges — and major changes — for every older adopted child and his or her family.
For nearly ten years — his entire life — Max lived in Thailand. He lived first with his birth mother, then at an orphanage for a couple of years, then back with his birth mother for a time, then in a foster home for several more years before joining the Snodgrass family.
And as a 10-year-old coming to the U.S. for the first time, there’s a lot to get used to.
“Bathrooms are tough,” Celeste says, recalling the very first hurdles of culture shock her son experienced in the U.S. Max was used to squatty potties, no indoor plumbing, and taking a “shower” with a bucket of collected rainwater while still partially clothed on the street in front of his foster home or orphanage.
“These,” Celeste says, “the activities of daily living that are just so different — they were just huge things to adjust to for him.” Just as it would be, she said, if anyone from the U.S. were to go to Thailand and try to navigate the very same everyday activities.
Then, of course, there’s the language barrier — a challenge that Celeste says she doesn’t know how children and families overcame before technology like Google Translate!
“He’s still learning,” Celeste says today, almost a year and a half since Max came home. But the learning process has required their entire family coming around Max to support him. “It’s a constant explaining of why we’re doing this, why we’re going somewhere, why you can’t do this, or should do this,” she says.
In the process, they’ve encountered countless concepts that go beyond the syntax of language. Concepts that fall more in the category of cultural differences — such as why it’s important to wear a seatbelt — that require a lot of extra explaining to a child for whom it is completely new.
“All children come to us with a history,” Celeste says. “And this is something that all parents of older-adopted children need to understand and implement in their parenting.”
For Celeste, this means that she is “Mom Number Three” — as Max calls her. Max has years’ worth of memories of living with his birth mother, Mom Number One, and his foster mother, Mom Number Two.
“So we get to share him,” Celeste says. “And that’s totally OK.”
Max still writes letters to his foster mom, and as a family, they talk openly about the important people in his past.
“It’s our job to honor who they are,” Celeste says, “and help them grow into fully functioning members of society.”
While adopting an older child requires flexibility and openness and unconditional love through what can be a difficult transition, it’s not as scary as most parents might initially think. Because more than anything, what older-adopted kids need is consistency, care and the love of a family.
Adopting an older child isn’t always easy, and it is always a transition. But it’s one that is well worth it. Over the year and a half that Max has been home, it’s been a joy for the Snodgrasses to see his personality come out more as he grows more and more comfortable as part of the family.
“Max is a goofy kid,” Celeste says, “his laugh is the greatest.”